Friday, February 20, 2015

The power of thinking big

Throughout our nation's history, we have been led by people who think big. People with vision. Leaders who could inspire us to do better, to be better, to dream, to achieve. In fact, to me, that is what defines leadership, to a great extent: The ability to inspire people to action based on a better vision for the future. It can come from groups of people as well as individuals.

So I am really dismayed when local residents engage in what I would call "small thinking." I have seen it from the local politicians who cannot see how we could have a Mokelumne Wild and Scenic River and water supply at the same time, who won't set high standards for local development and protect local scenic history and beauty in our general plan update, who settle for lousy development projects like Dollar General when we deserve the best.

Photo of Kennedy MineI've seen this lately in a local political group on Facebook, where I spend way too much time these days. Someone has a proposal, puts forward an idea -- buying and protecting the Knight Foundry being the latest example. And quickly, someone says, "How could we afford that?" or "It's not that important when we have infrastructure needs." Or  simply, "It can't be done."

What the heck is with that? Amador County's history was filled with dreamers, people who took risks, leaving their families and even their countries, risking their lives to come here in search of something bigger, better than what they had at home. We deify those people in this county. Their descendants proudly defend their legacy today.

So why have some of those very descendants lost that drive, that vision, that ability to go beyond small thinking to something bigger? Yes, things are not easy. Yes, we have many competing demands on available time and money. Is that anything new?

Many who live in this county have not fallen into the trap of small thinking. Back in the 1980s, our neighborhood found itself in need of better fire protection and emergency medical response. Did we say, "It can't be done?" Someone likely did. But many folks believed it was needed and worthwhile, so we started a fire department that later became a fire protection district. I wouldn't say it's exactly thriving now, but we no longer have to wait 30 minutes for a fire engine or EMTs to arrive when we need them. People's lives and homes have been saved as a result.

There are many other examples of what our community can do when we work together. Here are some example that come to mind. Some are ongoing efforts, some were discrete projects. It is by no means a complete list (feel free to add more in comments):

Photo of Middle Bar Bridge

All of these were done by people who had a vision for a better future.

To think small is to give up on our community. This is a wonderful place, but it could be better. We need better jobs. We need to preserve our historic resources and scenic beauty. We need to demand the best from developers, not just accept what they decide to give us.

Abraham Lincoln didn't inspire the nation by suggesting we give in to the minor demons of our spirit. Instead, he called on us to embrace "the better angels of our nature." Parents do not tell their young children, "You can't amount to anything; it's too hard."

Photo of Volcano AmphitheaterSo why should we do anything other than work for the best for our county -- following the traditions that made America and California international leaders and our own local tradition of getting things done and taking care of our own?

The first step is to believe we can.  And to do that, we must think big. 

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it" __Goethe